The Jays and Mets to play two exhibition games in Montreal next spring

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Shi Davidi reports that the Toronto Blue Jays and New York Mets will play two exhibition games in Olympic Stadium in Montreal next spring:

The contests, to be held right at the end of the pre-season, will bring big-league baseball back to the Big O for the first time since the Expos left for Washington after the 2004 season. Hosting games in Montreal makes sense under the Blue Jays’ strategy of building a country-wide fan-base.

And makes sense if they want to put the kibosh on the nascent “bring baseball back to Montreal” stuff we’ve been hearing lately. Which, no, I don’t think will  go anywhere any time soon, but if you’re the Jays you’re better off trying to claim as much territory as possible before that ball gets rolling so as to try and extract something from MLB if and when something happens.

As for Montreal: I’m curious as to how Olympic Stadium is doing these days.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.

I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.

Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.

Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.

To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.